Here, one thing needs to be understood, because there is much misunderstanding about it in the world of seekers. What is the meaning of turning one’s eyes inwards? Can the eyes be turned inwards? No, the eyes cannot be turned inwards. The eyes can only see the outer, there is no way for them to see inwards. There is no way for the eyes to see the seer which is behind them. But the mystics have always said, “Turn back your eyes, reverse the flow.” All that is meant by “reverse” is that you don’t go outwards; you don’t allow your energy to move out through your eyes. If the exit door is closed then the observer who used to move out, finding no way out, will turn back to itself. Within there will be no eyes, but of course no eyes are needed for seeing one’s own self. Seeing one’s own self happens without eyes; it is a seeing without eyes.
In order to listen to yourself there is no need to turn your ears inwards: all that is needed is that the ears stop hearing the outer. Once the contact with the network of soundwaves is broken, once the ears are indifferent to the outer and the energy that was moving out stops, then the same energy will be able to hear the sound of the inner on its own. To hear this sound ears are not needed at all. All that is meant by reversing the senses is that the senses do not move outwards, their energy does not move outwards.
It is as if the passage of a flowing waterfall in the mountains is blocked: finding nowhere to go, it will reverse and a lake will be formed. In the same way, your consciousness is flowing outwards through your five senses. If consciousness stops going outwards a lake of consciousness will be formed within you. This lake is endowed with self-awareness – it has the ability to see itself, to hear itself, to touch itself. But all these experiences are beyond the senses, they have nothing to do with the senses.
Bayazid, a Sufi mystic, used to tell a story that his master gave a pigeon each to three young men and asked them to go kill it at a place where no one could see it. One of the youths came back within five minutes after killing the pigeon. He had just walked to a nearby street which was empty, with nobody around, strangled it by its neck and came back.
The second youth came back after three days. He had made a deeper search for a place where nobody could see him killing the pigeon. So he found a deep cave, went in and closed the entrance behind him with a rock. Now there was no way for anybody to walk in, even accidentally. There was a deep darkness inside the cave; even if somebody happened to enter he wouldn’t be able to see anything. There he strangled the pigeon by its neck.
The third youth returned after three months with a live pigeon.
The master asked him, “Couldn’t you find any place even in three months where there was nobody?”
The youth replied, “It is not possible to find such a place even in three lifetimes. For three months I tried hard. I went into the deepest caves, it was dark – but even there I was present, the pigeon was present, and we two would be witnessing the killing. Even if I closed the eyes of the pigeon, I, the murderer, would be seeing it no matter how dark the place was.”
Bayazid said, “Out of the three, only you will be able to discover yourself. The other two do not have any thirst for the inner search yet.”